Key ‘sleepers’ from 2018
We all love a bargain and the chance to buy an expensive item at a knock down price, which is why people still queue for the beginning of the January sales even though we live in an age of online shopping. Our antiques expert David Boom of Keys looks back
The antiques trade and collectors are no different to others in as far as they love a good bargain and almost every edition of the Antiques Roadshow features a valuable item bought from a car boot or charity shop for a song.
Some years ago, a Scottish couple on holiday in London visited the V& A Museum and saw a Ming dynasty wine jar which looked very much like something they had at home and used as a walking stick stand.
Their walking stick stand was indeed a Ming jar, which subsequently sold at auction for £ 60,000.
The antiques trade is always on the search for ‘sleepers,’ items that have lived at the back of a cupboard or as utility objects in a home, generally regarded as having little or no value.
Sleepers also pop up at auction where specialist dealers or collectors come across an object whose rarity and value is much higher than the sale estimate.
The estimates on items sold at Keys Auctions in 2018 were generally close to the mark but some sleepers did pop up throughout the year.
A group of 18th Century
watercolours of European views by the English artist John Warwick Smith were offered in the March 2018 sale with a pre-sale estimate of £1,500-2,000 and sold for a hammer price of £17,500.
The high price was due to rarity and the fact that the examples were fresh to the market and fiercely contested by bidders in the room and on the internet.
A rare early ‘Lynn’ glass mid-18th Century water jug offered in March 2018 with a pre-sale estimate of £400-600 sold for £1,900.
Lynn glass, as it is known, is rather plain with moulded horizontal bands and although there was a small glass works in King’s Lynn in the 18th Century it could not have made the quantity of glass often referred to as ‘Lynn’ glass.
The term probably arose because fine sand from Dersingham was used to make glass in the 18th Century and would have been shipped from King’s Lynn. As with the previous example, this item was fresh to market and keenly contested by bidders in the room and online.
A late 17th/early 18th Century oyster and marquetry inlaid longcase clock case estimated at £ 8001,200 sold for £ 3,600.
Clock movements are relatively common but a case of this quality with attractive oyster and marquetry inlay are very hard to find in good condition which accounted for the strong price for this item.
A painting of flowers on glass by Dora Carrington entitled Rouen Ware, circa 1925, exhibited in a retrospective exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1995 estimated at £4,000-£ 6,000 sold for £13,200.
Dora Carrington was associated with the so-called Bloomsbury set of artists and writers in the early 1930s that became famous at the time for their ‘Bohemian’ lifestyles.
Carrington was a friend of gay writer Lytton Strachey and tragically committed suicide two months after the death of Strachey from cancer in 1932.
Her work received little attention of acclaim during her lifetime but she is now collected as an accomplished painter of landscapes and portraits.
An unusual Chinese moulded and carved red and black lacquer panel depicting a boat laden with precious objects being steered by a Chinese deity through crashing waves in a rocky landscape was estimated at £ 300-350 and sold for £ 3,000. The style of decoration is relatively common and modern examples are still made but this example was finely carved and probably dated to the late 18th or early 19th Century which explains the high price.
A group of 18th Century watercolours by John Warwick Smith.
A late 17th early 18th Century oyster and marquetry inlaid long- case clock.
A painting of flowers on glass by Dora Carrington.
A rare early ‘Lynn’ glass mid 18th Century water jug.